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Lecture 8

CLA201H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Conifer Cone, Eurystheus, Sacred Dance


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA201H1
Professor
Jody Cundy
Lecture
8

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Katabasis
- Descent, more specifically, descent into the underworld
- A specific form of the voyage into the other world, the (mythological) narration or
(ritual) staging of a voyage into the Underworld, with the purpose of either finding a
particular inhabitant (dead person, deity, monster) or gaining knowledge of the future
(guarded by the subterraneans) or simply to receive precise information about life after
death
- Myths can help explain what is beyond these limits
- Two traditions: Iliad 15. 187-193 three brothers drew lots of Hades received Erebus (not
random fate). Hesiod Theogony 881-885 Zeus allotted the honors or offices to each of
the gods when he became king
- Journeys in a cave, darkness, inward journeys take on parallels to katabasis
Hades
- He doesn’t make epiphanies he doesn’t make himself manifest. Death is unseen
- Hades “the unseen one” Pluto “the enricher”
- Epithets: polydegmon, polyxenos (putting valuable things in the earth and gathering
souls)
- Referred to as Zeus of the underworld. Rooster, scepter, cap (Iliad 5.844-5)
- Apollodorus says that the Cyclopes gave Hades a helmet at the same time as they gave a
trident to Poseidon and the thunderbolt to Zeus
- True journeys into the other world, with the intention of bringing an inhabitant of the
underworld into the upper world, are recounted concerning Heracles, Theseus and
Orpheus, especially the katabasis of Orpheus becomes a vehicle of eschatological
information.
- Chthonic deities (gods of the earth/below the earth) Demeter, Erinyes (people who
punish people because they kill their family), Gaia, Hades, Hecate (witch goddess),
Iacchus, Melinoe, Persphone, Triptolemus, Trophonius
Odysseus’ Katabasis
- Book 11 is called the Nekyia. A journey to acquire special knowledge. He remains in the
outskirts of the underworld without ever penetrating it
- Age of colonization, travelling to new world and how to engage with new people
Book 11
- 14-22 the sun never shines, gone to the outer sea (far west near Pillars of Heracles).
Offerings made on the ground not in an alter
- 23-47 spirits don’t have bodies even though they are visible. Cannot touch/affect things
- 48-77 Elpenor got drunk and fell off the roof at Circe’s palace. He is not buried and
asks for the proper rights how you are supposed to treat the dead. They still suffer
- 81-101 Odysseus’ mother dies before he returns from war. Tiresias needs to drink the
blood in order for Odysseus to receive wisdom, beyond everyday experience. He knows
larger issues that humans don’t know
- 204-225 trying to grasp his mother, echoing lost
- 611-629 how Homer uses imbedded myth. Heracles in Hades but becomes a god and is
also on Olympus human part of him dies and becomes a shade
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